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Mastering Materialism - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Matthew 6:25-34

  • 2013-08-04 AM
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Sermons


Let's turn again to Matthew 6 and to the Sermon on the Mount. Our Lord is dealing here in our flow through this passage with the issue of worry. Without exception, we all struggle with the sin of worry. Now what exactly is worry? Well, as I reminded you last week, in its simplest terms worry is nothing but fear. It is fear of what may happen in the future. Once we understand that, we really can learn much from the fact that in Scripture the opposite of fear is always trust. The two are mutually exclusive and you can see this in so many passages. Let me just give you a couple of examples. In Psalm 56:3, the psalmist writes, "When I am afraid (when I fear), I will put my trust in You." He goes on in Psalm 56:11 to say, "In God I have put my trust, (therefore I shall not fear) I shall not be afraid. (And he says) What can man do to me?" Psalm 112:7. "[The one who fears the Lord] will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." So the psalmist says, "The one who doesn't fear, doesn't fear evil people and what they may do, and he doesn't fear evil circumstances that may come, because his trust is in God."

Proverbs 3:25-26.

Do not be afraid of sudden fear

Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;

For the Lord will be your confidence (your trust)

And will keep your foot from being caught.

God Himself speaks to this issue in Isaiah 41:10. He says to us, "'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'"

So understand then that worry is nothing other than fear - fear of the future; and fear and trust are opposites. Trusting God, then, is the antidote to fear and worry. This morning in Matthew 6, our Lord applies this wonderful antidote of confidence in God to our worry and our worried souls. Now just again to remind you of the larger section, in Matthew 6:19, running down through the end of the chapter, our Lord is explaining to us how we should think about wealth and possessions. He begins in verses 19 to 24 by helping us recognize the dangers of materialism. Wealth and possessions are fine, but they can easily deteriorate – whether we have them, or don't have them and want them – into materialism. And He gives us some warnings and we've studied those in detail.

Now last week, we started to study the second part of this section in which Jesus goes the next step. He's taught us how to recognize the dangers. In verses 25 to 34, He teaches us how to overcome those dangers. I've entitled this section "Mastering Materialism." Let's read it again together. Matthew 6, beginning in verse 25.

"For this reason (that is, because of the inherent dangers with materialism and possessions) I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Now the flow of this passage is very straightforward. You have in verse 25 Jesus' command not to worry about the needs of this life, which He then repeats two other times through the flow of this passage. And then beginning in the middle of verse 25 down through verse 34, we have Jesus' arguments for not worrying about the needs of this life. Now last time we examined Jesus' command – Jesus' command not to worry about the needs of this life. He says in verse 25, "I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on."

Now I pointed out to you last time that the Greek word for 'worry' is a complicated word. The word is used in the New Testament to describe both a virtue and a sin. It's used to describe legitimate or acceptable care and concern for your duties and responsibilities. If you missed last week, you can go catch up with us. But just to briefly mention, Paul talks about the cares that he has for the churches. He uses this same Greek word. It's legitimate care, legitimate concern for his responsibilities given to him by God. He talks about Timothy caring for the needs of the people and he uses this same word. All of us have legitimate cares and concerns that are part of the duty and responsibility God has assigned to us, and we're to take that seriously.

But this same Greek word is also used to describe sinful worry and anxiety about anything. Now that raises a key question: How do I discern the difference? What is the difference? When do legitimate cares cross the line and become sinful worry? And we answered that in three ways last week and I took you to several texts, but let me just remind you of the large points. Legitimate cares become sinful worries when they begin to distract you from kingdom priorities, when they loom too large in your life and they take too much of your time and your mental energy. Secondly, they become sinful worry when you bear those legitimate concerns alone rather than doing as you're commanded to do – "casting your cares upon God, for He cares for you." Thirdly, they become sinful worry when those legitimate concerns for your duty and responsibility turn into fear and a lack of trust.

So Jesus commands us then not to worry, and specifically, notice verse 25, not to worry about the things that sustain physical life. Don't worry about food and drink and clothing. We could add other necessities for living life in the twenty-first century. We could add medical care and homes and transportation – anything that is necessary to sustain physical life on this planet. Jesus says, "Don't worry about those things. Stop worrying." But how do we do that? We're all prone to worry. How exactly do we stop worrying? Jesus' answer in this passage is by changing how we think, especially how we think about God. In the rest of this paragraph, we will discover Jesus' arguments for not worrying about the needs of this life. He presents us with a series of arguments. The first argument is found in the middle of verse 25 down through verse 30, and it's an argument from God's character. The second argument is found in verses 31 to 33, and it's an argument from kingdom priorities. And the third argument is found in verse 34, and it's an argument from simple logic.

So today let's begin by looking at the first of these – the argument from God's character. Reduced to its simplest terms, it's this: Jesus says, "You don't need to worry about your future financial needs, your future needs of this life, because you can trust your Father. You can trust Him." So beginning in the middle of verse 25 down through verse 30, Jesus explains to us that the real problem behind our worry is a lack of confidence and trust in God. You see, whenever you and I worry, what really lies behind it is a lack of trust in God. That's what Jesus says. Look at verse 28. Jesus asks this question: "Why are you worried?" There's the question. Why are you worried? Jesus' answer to that question comes at the end of verse 30. "You of little faith!" Little confidence, little trust in God. Here is Jesus' diagnosis of the real issue behind worry about our financial future. It's a lack of confidence in God. And why don't we have confidence in God? The answer, Jesus says, is because you don't really know what He's like. If you really knew what He was like, then you'd trust Him.

So in verses 25 to 30, Jesus corrects our flawed thinking about the character of God. He says, "You don't need to worry because you can trust your Father. And you can trust Him, first of all, because our Father gave us life. Our Father gave us life." This is the point that Jesus makes at the end of verse 25. He says, "Is not life more than food…?" In other words, He's saying, "Physical life (the physical life you enjoy as you sit here this morning) is greater in importance and value than the food that you'll eat in a few minutes to sustain that life." Now this is obvious. This is an evident truth, but I was thinking this week about a Biblical example that illustrates this. You remember the story of the shipwreck of Paul in the last two chapters of the book of Acts? They get caught in this violent storm. They realize there's no hope. Their only hope is to lighten the ship. And so in Acts 27:38, we read this: "When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea." You say, "Whoa, whoa! Wait a minute! What do you mean you're throwing the food overboard? Why?" The answer to that question is because their only chance of surviving - their physical life surviving - was by getting rid of the food. And going a few days without food was okay if it meant the survival of your physical life, because the physical life is more important than the food that you use to sustain it.

Jesus goes on in verse 25 to make a similar point. He says, "Is not the body more than clothing?" In other words, that body that you have that is filled with life at this moment – it is greater in importance and value than the clothing that you have on right now and the clothing that you have in your closet at home. Your body is more valuable than your clothes. Again this is a self-evident truth. You watched, I'm sure, as I did, when recently that Asiana Airlines jet crashed on its approach to the San Francisco Airport. Did you notice that those passengers didn't stay in the wreckage to collect their carry-on baggage because their clothes were in it? Why is that? Because their bodies were more important than whatever they might have salvaged from their carry-on luggage. They wanted out because their bodies are of more value.

Jesus here is following a traditional rabbinical line of argument. He's arguing from the greater to the lesser. Listen. Here's what He's saying. He's saying God gave you physical life and He gave you a body. Now stop there a moment. That seems like a self-evident truth, but frankly our culture doesn't fully understand that. God gave you physical life. Your parents didn't give you physical life. Listen to Deuteronomy 32:39. God says, "See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and (it is I who) give life." God says, "You weren't responsible for creating your own life. Your parents weren't responsible for creating your life. I gave you life. And when the time comes, I'm the One who'll take it." So Jesus says God gave you life.

Now think about this. He's saying if God gave you the greater gift of physical life, won't He also give you the lesser gift of food to sustain that life? And if God gave you the greater gift of that body that you have right now, won't He also give you the clothing you need to cover it? Jesus is arguing based on the character of God; specifically, God's goodness and His generosity. If God has been so good and so generous to give you physical life, then do you really believe that He's not going to sustain your life? The answer is obvious. Of course He will. It would be inconsistent with God's character for Him to be so overwhelmingly generous to give you life, to give you that body, and then to be a miser when it comes to providing the needs of this life. Jesus argues, "You don't need to worry about the needs of this life because you can trust your Father. And you can trust your Father to meet your needs because of what He's already given you – the gift of physical life."

Now Jesus continues to argue that we can trust our Father not only because He gave His life but, secondly, because our Father feeds all living things. Our Father feeds all living things. And, and here we come to one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture. It's quoted often, even by those who don't follow Jesus and those who don't embrace the Scripture because of the beauty of how things are expressed. Notice how verse 26 begins, "Look at the birds of the air…" Martin Luther, writing of this passage, says, "Jesus is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men." A bird becomes a theologian to teach us God's truth.

Jesus says, "Look at the birds…" The Greek word 'look at' here means to look at something directly and therefore intently. It's likely – remember now, Jesus is teaching this Sermon on the Mount on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. If you go to Israel with us next year, we'll visit what is very likely the spot (it's certainly in that area; has to be) where He taught this message. And it's likely that as He stood there teaching, He pointed nearby to some birds. Specifically, it says "the birds of the air" or "the birds of the heaven." These are wild birds as opposed to domesticated ones that humans do care for. In the version that Luke has which was the same basic content that Jesus preached on another occasion a few months later, He goes very specifically to the ravens: "Consider the ravens…" At other times, He points to sparrows.

Birds were a great point of illustration for Jesus because they were plentiful in Israel. In fact, when you travel to Israel, you'll discover that it's a fascinating place God put Israel, because in the ancient world, as even today, it is a land bridge. It is a land bridge between the two great continents on the north, Europe and Asia, and the great continent of Africa on the south. If you go to the west of Israel, you have the Mediterranean Sea; you go to the east, you have the Sahara. So there's this tiny little land bridge. And it was then and still is today a very famous migration path for birds. They tell us that in any given year, some 350 different species will make their way through Israel.

Jesus says, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns…" Now right away, we're opened to a potential misunderstanding here. Jesus is not saying that birds don't work and so you don't have to either; He's just going to give you food. He's not saying God will miraculously give you food. In fact, think about it for a moment. Considering their body size and weight, birds expend a massive amount of energy in their daily search for food. All birds eat an eighth of their body weight or more each day, and some birds eat a third of their weight in food each day. In other words, they eat like teenagers. And they have to work really hard for that food. And so must we. This is what the New Testament teaches. First Thessalonians 4:11. Paul says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you…" Second Thessalonians 3:10. "…when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." Martin Luther, in his very colorful way of putting things, commenting on this text, says, "God wants nothing to do with the lazy, gluttonous bellies who are neither concerned nor busy. They act as if they just had to sit and wait for Him to drop a roasted goose into their mouth." That's not what Jesus is saying here. As believers, we are not exempt from hard work. We are not exempt from earning a living.

Notice what Jesus is saying: what birds don't do. Notice they don't sow; that is, they don't cultivate the ground and plant seed. They don't reap; that is, they don't systematically harvest what they've planted. And they don't gather into barns. Birds are not by and large characterized by storing up their food for the future. Jesus' point here is very clear. They simply live from day to day. And He says in verse 26, "…yet your heavenly Father feeds them." Underline that. Underscore that in your mind if not in your Bible. "Your heavenly Father feeds them." Jesus is making a massive point about God's providential care of the created world. This is the message of the Bible. Turn back to Job 38. We read it a few minutes ago, but I want you to see it in this context. Job 38:41. God asked Job, "Who prepares for the raven its nourishment when its young cry to God and wander about without food?" What's the obvious answer? What answer is God expecting? It's a rhetorical question that receives the answer, "God does." That's who.

Then this is made explicit. Turn over to Psalm 104:27. Speaking of all the beings that are alive, "They all wait for You to give them their food in due season (or at the appointed time). You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good." This is a picture that's almost like a kid at a petting zoo with a handful of food and he's holding it out and the animals are eating out of his hand. That's how God does with the world He's created and made. "You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire and return to their dust."

Turn over to Psalm 145:15. "The eyes of all (living things) look to You, and You give them their food in due time. (Here's that picture again.) You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." God is the source of the nourishment and the food for every creature on the planet. Turn over to 147:9. "He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens which cry."

Now folks, this is absolutely crucial to understand. Jesus told us, and these verses reiterate, that our Father personally cares for all of His creation on a daily basis. Now don't misunderstand. The Bible's not being simplistic here. The Bible nowhere diminishes the importance of secondary causes. There are secondary causes. There's the animal's instinct that God has made it with. There are the natural laws that He has woven into His creation. But our God is not the god of the deist; God is personally responsible for the moment by moment care of His creation. He's the One who makes all of those things work together for the benefit of every creature. All living creatures that He's made have their nourishment as a result of His personal care and His personal concern.

Jesus points to the birds and He says, "Do you see how God consistently provides for their daily food?" Now look at the end of verse 26. Matthew 6:26. "Are you not worth much more than they?" Now that is a profound statement on a couple of different levels. Before we look at Jesus' point here in context in Matthew 6, I want us to stop for just a moment and let this statement correct the mindset of the age in which we live. In this text, Jesus unequivocally states that human beings are much more valuable than animals, and that is completely contrary to the spirit of the age in which we live. Ingrid Newkirk was the founder of PETA; that is, the organization called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Ingrid Newkirk has written this. Listen. "There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." In other words, there is absolutely no differentiation. We are all animals and we are all at the same level of value, whether you're a rat or whether you're a pig or whether you're a dog or whether you're a boy. This is the fruit of evolutionary thinking.

Recently I was shocked to watch a video just recorded over this last year in which some very bright UCLA students who are avowed evolutionists were asked this question. They were given this moral dilemma. They were asked, "Okay, your pet dog and your neighbor are both drowning in your pool. Which one do you save?" Now for many of us, that seems like an obvious answer, but every one of those students at UCLA said the dog. That's a frightening reality, but that is the fruit of evolutionary thought that says, "We are all animals. We all have evolved from the same source. There is no value of one above the other."

I can understand why pagan evolutionists had that mindset, but it saddens me because Christians within the context of the church have been influenced in subtle ways by that kind of thinking. Listen carefully to me on this basic Biblical doctrine about man. Of all the creatures on earth, man alone occupies the special place of honor. Turn over to Matthew10. Jesus is preparing His disciples for persecution. And in verse 28, He says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." You better not fear people. You better fear God. Then He wants to encourage them about God's providence even over persecution. And He says in verse 29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?" The Greek word for 'cent' here describes the smallest copper coin at that time. It's like we would say our penny. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? "And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." He doesn't say "apart from your Father knowing." He's talking about your Father's direction – apart from your Father being involved in it. Not a single sparrow will crash to the ground in its flight apart from the providential direction of God. And then He says let's make this more personal. When it comes to you, "the very hairs of your head are all numbered." That's a greater challenge for God with some of us than others, but they're all numbered. His point isn't that you're not going to have any of those hairs hurt. That doesn't happen, right? Some of the disciples, all of the disciples were persecuted and tortured, and all of them eventually except the apostle John died as martyrs. He's not saying, "So I'm not going to let anybody touch a single hair on your head." He's making a bigger point. He's saying, "Just as that sparrow doesn't fall to the ground except I direct it, not a single hair on your head will be hurt unless I'm in it and directing it. You can trust Me." And then He says, verse 31, "So do not fear (and then He makes this statement); you are more valuable than many sparrows." But man's value is not just greater than that of birds. It's also greater than that of all the animals. Turn over to Matthew 12:12. "How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!" And He could say any other animal. That's the point.

Now why does man occupy such a special place of honor in the created world? There are several answers to that. One is because man alone was made in the image of God. Do you understand you are not just another animal with no greater intrinsic value than a squirrel or a pig or a rat or a dog or any other creature? You, unlike the rest of them, were made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him…" You are higher because God gave man the dominion over every other creature on this planet. Genesis 1:28. "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over…every living thing that moves on the earth.'"

Do you realize that God made the animals for man's benefit? Not to abuse, but to use as a stewardship. In fact, let me ask you this question. When did the first animal die? In Genesis 3 right after the fall. God killed it. Why did God kill the first animal? To put clothes on Adam and Eve, to clothe them. Later in Genesis and after the flood in Genesis 9:3, He said this to Noah and to all of human civilization thereafter. He says, "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant."

This same concept continues in the New Testament. Our Lord, He supported and used the sacrificial system that slaughtered thousands of animals every year both as a picture of the future redemption as well as food for the priests and the worshipers. In addition, our Lord ate meat. We know that at every Passover He ate lamb, for thirty-three years or as soon as He was weaned and able to eat, from then on. We also know that He ate fish regularly. And undoubtedly He ate many of the other meats that are allowed by the Old Testament Law. And during His ministry, He declared even for the Jews all meats to be clean. In Mark 7:19, "Thus He declared all foods clean." Don't go back and try to live under the dietary laws. You know, some Christians, "I'm not going to eat this meat and that meat." Read the rest of the Bible.

In Acts 10, a voice comes to Peter. You remember? He's on the rooftop waiting for lunch and he sees this vision of all these animals, clean and unclean. "A voice came to him (this is God speaking to Peter), 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!'" God's saying, "Listen. I gave food to man. I gave animals to man for his food." But Peter realizes there are unclean animals there and he says, "'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.'" Obviously, there was an object lesson about how he was to respond to Gentiles; he's going to go to Cornelius' house shortly and share the gospel; but there's also a lesson about food.

As Christians, we shouldn't abuse or misuse animals. Proverbs 12:10 says that "a righteous man has regard for the life of his animal." In other words, he shows compassion even toward his animals. You see these terrible abuses on television. Righteous people don't do that. A righteous man cares for his animal. But that said, don't buy into the evolutionary idea that animals have equal value to human beings. And don't be afraid to use animals and animal products for food, clothing, and other things that benefit human beings. That's why God put them here. So Jesus says you are much more valuable than the birds or any animal.

But now turn back to Matthew 6 and let's put those words back into their context. Verse 26. "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" Jesus' point here is clear. He's saying, "God feeds these mostly unclean, wild birds that don't have the capacity to plan ahead, don't have the capacity to store up for the future. They live day to day and God feeds them. In fact, God feeds every living thing until He decides that it's time for that creature to die. You, as a person made in the image of God, are worth far more than any animal (and so what's the logical point He's making?) so your Father will feed you."

Now the question arises – how? How does God feed us? Well, usually God feeds us through the normal means of work and farmers and ranchers and fishermen and grocers. He uses the skills He's given others to help bring food and our own work and the remuneration for that work as how He feeds us, just as He feeds the birds through similar mechanisms that He's put in place. Sometimes when we find ourselves in difficulty, without work or some physical issue that doesn't allow us to, He feeds us through the generosity of others, especially other believers. We are to care for one another in that way, and we find ourselves from time to time in those kinds of situations. And on rare occasions in Scripture – and I think very likely on rare occasions today – God directly and miraculously intervenes to make sure that His people have food.

Now I want you to look at verse 26 again because there's a surprise here. Jesus didn't say what we would have expected Him to say. Notice He did not say of the birds "their Father feeds them;" instead He says "your Father feeds them." That is a very profound point Jesus is making. Believer, you enjoy a relationship with God that the birds don't enjoy, that no animal enjoys. If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you are God's child. God has adopted you. And do you really think that your adoptive Father won't meet your needs, that He won't provide you with food?

Turn over to Matthew 7: 9. Jesus says, "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf [of bread], will give him a stone? (Here, son. Enjoy.) Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?" Jesus says, "Listen. If your son comes to you, if your child comes to you with a legitimate need - they're not asking for the moon here; they're asking for fish and bread, something to sustain life, a real need; if your child comes to you with a real need, are you going to give them something that's useless - a rock? Or even worse, are you going to give them something that's harmful - a snake? He says, "Of course you're not going to do that." No decent human father would do that. Verse 11. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good (what they need) to those who ask Him!"

You know, my children know me well enough to know that I'll provide for them. And so they don't worry about what they're going to eat. Well, they may worry about exactly what it's going to be, but not whether they're going to eat or not. And neither do your children. And we aren't even close to being as faithful as God is. Our Father will provide what we need. Now that doesn't mean - listen carefully - that doesn't mean that we won't face lean times, trouble, and sometimes even go without food and be hungry. Birds sometimes are hungry. Birds sometimes even starve to death. Sometimes birds are killed and eaten by predators. So Christ's example of the birds doesn't mean that our lives will be easy and without trouble. As one author said, "To be free from worry and to be free from trouble are not the same thing." Look down in verse 34 of Matthew 6. He says each day is going to have trouble. Jesus doesn't promise easy, trouble-free lives. And God often will keep things from us for a period of time in order to teach us important spiritual lessons.

Turn back quickly to Deuteronomy 8, talking about the children of Israel in the wilderness. Verse 3, he says, "He humbled you and let you be hungry (God's children were hungry for a time), and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, (why did He do all this?) that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." He wanted to get your sights off of all the physical stuff and on to the spiritual realities. And so sometimes God takes us through leanness for that reason. Look at verse 5. "Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.

So this is no promise that we won't go through periods of time in our lives without all of our needs being met. Paul experienced that in Second Corinthians 11: 27. He says, "I have been… in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." Turn over to Philippians 4. Paul thanks the Philippians for their gift, but then he says in verse 11,

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, And I also I know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

Paul says, "I've lived with plenty and I've lived without. I've lived when I was full and I've lived when I was hungry. And I've learned to be content whatever circumstances come." How can you do that? Verse 13. "I can do all [these] things through Him who strengthens me." There's a verse that's often yanked out of its context. In context, it's saying, "You can be content whether you have more than you need or whether you don't have enough. Christ can enable you and strengthen you to survive through that." Verse 19. "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." People love to quote that verse out of its context. Paul has just said there have been periods of his life when he's gone without. This is counter the prosperity gospel that says God always wants you healthy and wealthy. That wasn't Paul's experience, but God will meet our needs. Just as the Israelites, just as Paul, each of us may face lean and difficult times, but God over the spread of our lives will consistently meet our needs. And when He doesn't, He has a good spiritual purpose in mind.

I am the last of ten children, as you know, and my dad was a music director. And, you know, he did other things to support the family, but what he loved was his music. And being a music director in a church and having ten children don't usually go together very well in terms of meeting the needs of the family. So I can't tell you how many times I heard my dad quote Psalm 37:25, the psalm of David. David says this: "I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread." David says, "Look at the scope of a believer's life from youth to old age. Yes, there may be lean times. Yes, there may be hard and difficult times when they are without. But over the scope of that life, God always provides for the needs of His own." If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ – and notice I didn't say if you claim to be a Christian. Most people in north Texas claim to be Christians. But if you have embraced Jesus Christ as Lord – if He is your master, you are His student and disciple – then God has adopted you. He has made you His own child. Do you really think that the Father doesn't care about you and won't provide for you? What kind of a Father do you think we have? He's just taught us through Jesus, back in Matthew 6:11, to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." You think that's some kind of cruel joke? And would the One who gave up His only Son for you not also give you the necessities of life? I love Romans 8:32. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" Listen. If God gave you His Son, the Son He loved, do you really think He's not going to meet your basic needs in this life? Every time you see a bird, ask God to remind you that there is a powerful illustration that you have a good and generous Father – that He not only provides for those birds that don't have a unique relationship to Him, but He will always provide for His own children. Let's pray together.

Our Father, forgive us. Forgive us for our unworthy thoughts of You. Forgive us for thinking of You in a mean and miserly way. Forgive us for not trusting You as though You weren't trustworthy. Forgive us for our worry, for our fear of the future. Remind us, O God. Help us to think on this passage and meditate on what our Lord's taught. And may the truths of who You are cause us to trust You and drive our fear and worry away. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

The Sermon on the Mount